Coronary Artery Disease Heart Research Valve Disorders

New type of cardiac care at St. Paul’s to cut imaging wait times and unnecessary hospital admissions

cardiac CT scan chest pain clinic
This dedicated cardiac CT scan already being used at St. Paul's Hospital is the first in Canada.

A new type of care for cardiac patients at St. Paul’s Hospital has the potential to reduce heart imaging wait times, ease Emergency Department congestion and lower the number of unnecessary hospital admissions.

At the centre of the new approach is a dedicated cardiac computed tomography (CT) scan, the first of its kind in Canada.

The machine will be used as a component of a stand-alone Rapid Access Chest Pain Clinic that will provide earlier prevention and life-saving treatment to cardiac patients.

Dedicated cardiac CT scan is currently being used for heart patients at St. Paul’s Hospital

“The Rapid Access Chest Pain Clinic has the potential to change the course of this disease by offering prevention and early intervention in a personalized fashion,” says Dr. Jonathon Leipsic, chair of PHC’s Department of Radiology. It is partnering with St. Paul’s Cardiology Department in this initiative with funding from St. Paul’s Foundation.

The clinic would open next year and will receive referrals from St. Paul’s Emergency Department, the City Centre Urgent Primary Care Clinic (UPCC) in Vancouver’s West End and from general practitioners.  It will be staffed with specially trained cardiac CT technicians and nurses.

The dedicated cardiac CT is currently at St. Paul’s where its scans are performed on about 25 patients a day, freeing up time on the hospital’s other general purpose CT scans for other patients.

The cardiac scan is smaller, easier to use and lighter than full-body scans because it diagnoses only the heart. It also offers:

  • Sharper, crisper images that can provide greater direction on the next step of care.
  • Similar or lower radiation doses than general-purpose scans.

New model of care based on something similar in use in United Kingdom 

Patients who would be diagnosed with the cardiac scan will be stable and have symptoms that include chest pain, shortness of breath and fatigue. Patients with valve disease will also benefit.

The concept of a rapid access chest pain clinic, supported by cardiac CT scanning, was inspired by the United Kingdom, where this model has proven highly effective. It’s allowed for a more specific diagnosis of coronary artery disease.

St. Paul’s model to provide earlier diagnosis of heart problems

The St. Paul’s model will help provide earlier diagnosis to patients who might otherwise end up in the ED due to referral wait times by specialists.

“If the cardiac CT scan is negative, it means the patient has an excellent prognosis with a very low cardiac-event rate for many years,” says Dr. Leipsic.

The chest pain clinic will have the capacity to care for about 2,500 cardiac patients a year.

St. Paul’s Foundation is in the process of raising $800,000 for the model of care. It has raised $500,000 of that so far.

Give us your comments and story ideas